Each year on September 26, just days after the start of autumn, we celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day. And while this day of recognition doesn’t get you off work, it’s a day to remember an American pioneer who helped bring, arguably, the most iconic fruit to North America: the apple.
Known for his planting of apple orchards from Pennsylvania to Illinois to modern-day Canada, Appleseed would be astonished to learn that today the U.S. grows 240 million bushels of apples on average each year. Annually, the wholesale value of the crop is close to $4 billion.
But outside of loving apples, Appleseed was a conservationist. Because of this, he would be equally astonished to learn that apples are among the most wasted foods across the globe – according to UK supermarket giant Tesco, around 40 percent of the fruit is thrown away.
Many consumers throw away fruits like apples, peaches and bananas, because they brown so easily. This is especially challenging for apples because the fruit is often enjoyed sliced, which significantly speeds up the browning process.
Through biotechnology, however, researchers have identified a way to modify the genes of the fruit so that it doesn’t brown as quickly, thus extending self-life and reducing food waste.
Distributed to grocery stores in the fall of 2017, Arctic Apple’s non-browning apple slices are the latest GM crop to hit the market. Currently, the company has three popular varieties of apples available, including the Arctic Granny, the Arctic Golden and the Arctic Fuji. Additionally, the company has recently released its Arctic ApBitz, which are sliced dried apples packaged as an easy to eat snack especially great for kids.
As companies and consumers look for ways to cut down on the nearly 150,000 tons of food that is wasted in U.S. households each day, biotechnology innovations such as non-browning apples should continue to be explored as a possible solution. Currently, the potato is another crop that has been modified to be non-browning, and more crops with non-browning or reduced bruising traits should be on the horizon.
As a conservationist and apple lover, I’m sure Johnny Appleseed would be a supporter of any innovation that reduces food waste and allows more Americans to consume the fruit which he was nicknamed after.